Bush Is Asked to Discipline GSA Chief in Hatch Act Inquiry

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The U.S. special counsel has called on President Bush to discipline General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan "to the fullest extent" for violating the federal Hatch Act when she allegedly asked political appointees how they could "help our candidates" during a January meeting.

In a June 8 letter to Bush, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch accused Doan of "engaging in the most pernicious of political activity" during a Jan. 26 lunch briefing involving 36 GSA political appointees and featuring a PowerPoint presentation about the November elections by the White House's deputy director of political affairs.

At the presentation's conclusion, Doan asked what could be done to "help our candidates," according to a special counsel report. Several GSA appointees who watched the presentation told special counsel investigators that some appointees responded with ideas of how the agency could use its facilities to benefit the Republican Party.

Later, after the special counsel's office received a complaint about the episode and began investigating, Doan showed "a proclivity toward misrepresentation and obstructing an official investigation," Bloch told the president in a four-page letter that accompanied an eight-page memo about the case.

Doan declined to comment yesterday. "It would be inappropriate for the Administrator to comment on an official letter from the Office of Special Counsel to the President of the United States," the GSA said in a statement.

Doan has denied any wrongdoing, saying she did not organize the meeting and did not intend for her remarks to spur GSA appointees to become involved in the election.

Bloch's letter caps an investigation that included interviews with more than 20 political appointees and a review of 1,100 pages of evidence. The goal was to determine whether Doan violated the Hatch Act, which restricts executive branch employees from using their positions for political purposes. The president can take a range of actions, from rejecting the recommendations to dismissing Doan.

"I recommend that Administrator Doan be disciplined to the fullest extent for her serious violation of the Hatch Act and insensitivity to cooperating fully and honestly in the course of our investigation," Bloch wrote.

Doan told investigators that she did not pay attention to the briefing by White House political aide J. Scott Jennings because she was busy reading e-mail on her BlackBerry, according to the special counsel's report. She testified during a congressional hearing and told special counsel investigators that she did not remember making the remark attributed to her. Her lawyer, Michael J. Nardotti Jr., said any such comment would have been directed at Jennings.

In a June 1 letter in response to the special counsel's initial report on the matter, Nardotti took exception to the findings. He wrote, "It is clear that the conclusions of the OSC report are far off the mark and are based on tenuous inferences and careless leaps of logic." Nardotti said Bush should reject the report.

"Upon closer examination, one is hard-pressed to conclude that the Administrator solicited or induced her employees to engage in any political activity," Nardotti wrote.

The White House declined to comment about who is reviewing the report or when the president will make a decision.

"We're reviewing it," said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman. "It's an internal deliberation, and we don't talk about internal deliberations at the White House."

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